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Game changer: Joinlox technology breathes new life into key infrastructure

JOINLOX has already quietly started a global revolution in materials joining-technologies. Now the Australian innovator is set to apply its award-winning bio-mimicry systems to a global sector of urgent need: infrastructure built on aged and degrading marine piles.

The significance of Joinlox’s PileJax marine infrastructure system is only now dawning upon government and industry owners of critical infrastructure such as road and rail bridges, ports and wharves. 

PileJax is an ingenious system that cost-effectively repairs and extends the life by decades of ageing pile-supported assets – a game changer for regions struggling with infrastructure that is near end-of-life or damaged by severe weather events.

PileJax has already been used by Queensland Rail to extend the service life of many of its bridges by decades – and at a fraction of the cost of replacement. So has Gold Coast City Council, with hundreds of bridges across its canal system – most built by developers in the 1970s and 80s – now coming under scrutiny.

Having completed dozens of successful projects around Australia, the company has now launched into the US and Canadian markets where this ageing infrastructure issue has reached crisis point. 

Mr Pettigrew said the company had already been accredited by several State transport authorities, US Federal Government bodies and other large infrastructure owners, all keen to leverage off the cost savings of repairing with the PileJax systems instead of facing the huge replacement cost of vital bridges, wharves and ports.

“The problem exists where, say,  you have built a port 30, 40 or 50 years ago and you have been generally maintaining it and painting it and doing what you needed to do,” Mr Pettigrew said. “A bridge or a wharf has typically been built with a design life of 30-to-40-to-50 years, and that timeline is either fast approaching or has, in many cases, been well overtaken. The asset owner, whether they be a private company or a public or government body, really would prefer to get another 25 or even 50 years out of it.

“Rather than having to replace, we repair,” Mr Pettigrew said. “It’s a game changer.”

HOW PILEJAX WORKS

PileJax is one of those elegant engineering and construction solutions that sounds so simple you wonder why no-one has done it before.

The answer to that is the genius of the Joinlox joining technologies developed by Brisbane-based inventor Dean Urquhart who co-founded Joinlox and who still develops and refines these technologies for the company. Mr Pettigrew often describes the technology as “like a huge industrial strength zipper”. 

In essence, Joinlox technology mimics the way clam shells close – with precise ease and strength – and hence its PileJax application completes an installation quickly and without the need for specialised tools.

The technology has also been used to create a wide range of new furniture and hardware assembly products under the Striplox brand, which is set to revolutionise the way construction, cabinetry, furniture, fit-out and other related industries manufacture, transport and install.

“There are plenty of ways that pile repairs have been undertaken to date, whether it be conventional form work or concreting around the piles and wrapping things around them, like bandages and tapes and things,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“What we have just done is taken completely proven FRP (fibreglass reinforced plastic) composite materials, then developed them and manufactured in such a way that they can be joined to form a strong single piece jacket. You have got a pile that is both above and below the waterline, plus it is actually fixed there. You can’t slide something over the top, obviously, because you’ve got a bridge or a deck of some description there.

“So we clean the pile down, whether it be timber or concrete or steel, as PileJax is suitable for all three materials. We fit our jacket over it, in situ.

“We fit fit the jacket using barges on the surface and divers under the water. It’s amazing to think that the biggest cost of all this is the divers in the water. By using our joint, we can actually have our PileJax product fully pre-manufactured so that when it gets to the site it is ready to go – plug and play.

“The diver simply secures it around a pile and within just a few minutes taps in the (Joinlox) locking key. So the only tool required is a rubber mallet and a couple of minutes of diver time versus other traditional means that can involve hours or days to wrap or to encase each pile.”

Each jacket is custom-manufactured for the job and one of the side-benefits is the units could incorporate new styling elements, if required. 

“We may have, say, a wooden pile which could be 500mm diameter and between 6m and 15m high. Instead of wrapping something directly on to the timber, what we do is, if the pile of 500mm diameter, we’ll make our jacket 600mm diameter. So you have got about a 50mm clearance on either side,” Mr Pettigrew explained.

The wooden pile would then be cleaned, and ground down where elements would infringe on the 600mm jacket, then a special fibreglass epoxy mix is pumped into the space between the degraded pile and the jacket.

“That epoxy goes off and cures and bonds the jacket effectively to the pile,” Mr Pettigrew said. “The jacket remains in place to protect and sometimes strengthen the pile and becomes an impermeable barrier to oxygen or water, stopping anything getting in to the pile.

“It arrests the degradation, or the rotting, or whatever it might be, and protects it for another 25 years into the future.”

Joinlox quotes its PileJax life extension as having a design life of 25 years, but that is conservative, Mr Pettigrew admitted.

“Based on the materials, the testing and the science behind the materials, it could very well be much longer than that,” he said.

“If a bridge was built with a 40-year design life, rather than having to spend the money to replace that bridge, if you can get another 20-plus years out of it by spending a fraction of the cost of replacement then that’s when it becomes demonstrable, the savings, from a capital perspective,” Mr Pettigrew said. “That’s really the value proposition of the PileJax products.”

CRACKING US MARKET, FOR STARTERS

Through agents and trade distributors in North America, Joinlox was able to gain traction for its Striplox products – which are currently all manufactured in Australia and exported – and PileJax has also made inroads through representation.

“It is a completely different business model, but PileJax is the product of a bunch of systems that is enabled by the Joinlox technology,” Mr Pettigrew said. “It is productised into a system that may not be a very sexy niche, but it is certainly a very big one.

“We did not sit here and say, little Aussie company let’s go to the US … We actually looked around at all the international markets and started to make some introductions and some soundings. Overwhelmingly the Americans and the Canadians said, you have got to come here … the market is ripe for you guys to be here.

“It’s a very big market that is very accepting of Aussie innovation. We were welcomed with open arms. It’s no cake walk. It’s still bloody hard work. But we have managed to crack that market by selling through a local distributor.

“We market to the asset owners, to the consulting engineers – who are working for the asset owners to repair and remediate their assets – and then to the civil contractors who do the works,” he said. “So we have got a market for all three. Typically our transaction will be selling the materials to the principal contractor but we’ve got to market to and convince all three layers. 

“It is an engineered product, so there is a technical sale, and it is project driven, but our job is to explain it to the asset owners and the project consultants.”

Mr Pettigrew said, on examination, the future of PileJax looked extremely bright, based on the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report. It showed US ports planned to spend US$154.8 billion in the 2016-2020 period on expansion, modernisation and repair to handle growing trade demands. The Panama Canal expansion would bolster this demand, having opened its Panamax sized locks in mid-2016, he said.

“Coming inland, the opportunities only increase, with the average age of the nation’s road bridges now 43 years,” Mr Pettigrew said. Research identified 56,007 locations – that is 9.1 percent of the US bridge population of 614,387 –were now rated as structurally deficient,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“The investment backlog price tag of US$123 billion (A$164 billion) is the amount of spending required to fix the sub-standard bridges in the US alone.”

PileJax has also sold its system successfully to US Army Corps of Engineers and the Australian company is working with the Corps for future supply.

Joinlox, as a small Australian company,  has been successful in new product markets as much from the collaborative way in which it does business as the innovation built into its products, Mr Pettigrew said.

He could see great opportunities for Joinlox to partner and collaborate with other Australian companies to accelerate markets together..

“I’d like somebody to say, hey, look at what Joinlox is doing … we are kind of doing the same thing … or maybe they could use our technology in their products or we could help them market in the US,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“Whether it be marketing or strategic or technical, we are always looking to partner up and collaborate here and internationally.”

www.joinlox.com

EXTRA >>

FUNDING GROWTH

Joinlox has instigated a $5 million capital raise to fund its international expansion plans. 

“Increased construction confidence, ageing infrastructure issues and the revival of the minerals sector are all well publicised macro-segments that are in line with our strategies and we feel Joinlox is now well placed capitalise on these,” Joinlox CEO John Pettigrew said.

“This funding round will be used to build the company’s distribution, marketing and presence on the ground to accelerate growth throughout North America and other international markets.

“The company has an enviable pipeline of new products that Joinlox plans to bring to market and penetrate various construction and industry sectors,” he said.

“With such an exciting future and capacity to continue to scale into large export markets, this innovative home-grown company has its sights on a potential IPO in the near future.”

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Michael Phelps on starting blocks for Medibio board

AUSTRALIAN Securities Exchange-listed Medibio Limited has enlisted the world’s most successful Olympic swimmer, American Michael Phelps, to assist in the promotion of its diagnostic products for depression, chronic stress and other mental health disorders.

Since retiring from competitive swimming in 2016, Mr Phelps has actively sought to raise awareness around mental health. He said joining Australian innovator Medibio’s board was a natural next step in his professional journey. 

“I am honoured to accept this appointment because I have personally experienced Medibio’s technology and believe it can help make a profound impact in diagnosing mental health and empowering people to seek the help and support they may need,” Mr Phelps said.

“In sports, there is so much focus on the physical aspects of performance, and athletes are analyzed from head to toe.  But for many athletes, mental health has not been a topic of focus, and the data analysis aspect of it has been missing up until now.  

“I personally suffered from mental health challenges from my teenage years on, and only fairly recently — after reaching a point of desperation — did I acquire the understanding, treatment, and support I needed, which has truly changed my life.  For me, self-awareness, from a mental health standpoint, is empowerment.

“But I’ve seen firsthand — in sports and beyond — how difficult it is for people to understand, discuss, and confront stress, anxiety, and mental health concerns, all of which can seem like an insurmountable barrier to getting the help and support that is needed,” Mr Phelps said.

“I feel that the ease and objectivity with which Medibio’s technology can accurately help to diagnose mental health will make a profound difference in people’s lives. I want to help others who are dealing with these challenges and make the process for them to take action easier and more understandable.”   

Prior to his appointment to Medibio’s board of directors, Mr Phelps worked with its team of world-class doctors and medical experts to explore ways in which Medibio’s technology could help address the challenges associated with the identification and treatment of various mental health issues. 

“We are thrilled to have Michael join our board of directors,Medibio managing director and CEO Jack Cosentino said.

“His joining the board of directors brings recognition and validates the great need for objective mental health diagnosis that we offer through our industry-leading technology.  His lifelong dedication to excellence in the pool, his advocacy for mental health, and his understanding of data-driven solutions will provide a great addition to our board. Michael’s significant public profile will raise substantial awareness of mental health challenges and the real, tangible solutions that Medibio’s diagnostics can provide.” 

Widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all-time, Mr Phelps has dedicated his time, fame, and focus to a number of philanthropic causes including water safety, mental health, and anti-doping initiatives. His advocacy for mental health recently earned the recognition of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as the honorary chairperson of National Mental Health Awareness Day 2017. In addition, Mr Phelps is an ambassador for the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf social media campaign in an effort to help end the stigmas associated with mental health and learning disorders.

Medibio’s depression diagnostic is being validated in clinical studies undertaken by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The University of Ottawa. The clinical trials will support Medibio’s application to become the first FDA approved, objective, and evidence-based approach to the diagnosis of mental health disorders.

In addition to its ASX listing, Medibio will seek to trade on the OTCQB Venture Market securities exchange in New York, under the ticker MDBIF.

www.medbio.com.au

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Australian water tech goes swimmingly for KL 2017 Games

AUSTRALIAN designed and manufactured water disinfection technology will help to protect swimmers competing at the Kuala Lumpur 29th Southeast Asian Games (KL 2017) in Malaysia in August.  

Australian Innovative Systems (AIS) shipped three of its multiple award-winning EcoLine water disinfection systems to Kuala Lumpur in March, to be installed in the FINA standard competition swimming pools at the Malaysia National Aquatic Centre.  

Specialist aquatic architect and group managing director of ARGO Architects, Will Marcus, specified AIS’s technology for the project. Both companies are headquartered in Brisbane.

AIS CEO, Elena Gosse said a major advantage of EcoLine was that the technology worked in water with ‘total dissolved solids (TDS) levels as low as 1,200 parts per million, creating a swimming experience and quality of water that feels, smells and tastes more like a fresh water swimming pool.

She said EcoLine’s automatic chlorine production kept levels remain stable, “helping to avoid incidents such as the recent ‘green pool’ at the Rio Olympics”.

“We are so proud that our innovative, award-winning, Australian designed and made EcoLine technology will be on the world-stage in KL in August,” Ms Gosse said. “Our EcoLine systems disinfect water onsite and inline conveniently and automatically. Using a process known as electrolysis, water passes through electrolytic cells which convert minerals and salts in water to chlorine.  The chlorine is then safely injected back into the pool water.

“Our innovative, EcoLine technology is not only safe and reliable but ends the outdated practice of storing and dosing liquid chlorine,” Ms Gosse said.

While selected for competition and leisure swimming pools in 55 countries, AIS technology has so far not been a technology of choice for the 2018 Commonwealth Games competition venues on the Gold Coast. But Ms Gosse is hoping the current foreign-manufactured liquid chlorine dosing system being used on the Gold Coast will be converted to modern AIS technology soon.

“During the Games we will be shining the world spotlight on our best Australian athletes,” Ms Gosse said. “We should also be shining it on our best, local technology.”

www.ais.com.au

 

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Supercheap Auto's new customer experience more than just the sum of its car parts

SUPERCHEAP Auto has developed a revolutionary flagship Customer Experience Centre which will open in Penrith, NSW, on July 1 and form the basis of the next generation of stores for the automotive retailer.

The Penrith Experience Centre is a pilot store concept featuring a suite of new services, digital experiences, and unique design features to meet the current and future needs of customers.

This new addition to the Supercheap portfolio of 320 stores was purpose-built to deliver solutions, in recognition of the evolution of customer needs and the importance of adapting its offer accordingly, according to Supercheap Auto managing director, Chris Wilesmith.

The Experience Centre welcomes customers with a massive 36sqm outdoor LED screen with FM audio transmission which will be a beacon of information and advice for the centres’ customers, as well a centrepiece for the store’s out-of-hours events, he said.

Another key feature of the Penrith Experience Centre is a floor to ceiling video wall with more than 70 unique pieces of localised content which responds to customers movements on entry, and provides an entertaining welcome to each customer walking by.

The Experience Centre is complete with grandstand-style seating for customers to watch and learn, and a centre stage big enough for a vehicle to be utilised for live demonstrations. It also boasts 8 x 84” LED screens hanging from the ceiling, enabling customers to watch and learn from more than 700 available videos.

The new centre was designed not just to excite but also to serve as an informative and practical hub as well as an experiential one, according to Mr Wilesmith. 

“Customer service and advice will be key in this store and to that end we have introduced the ‘Guru Concept’ which will see gurus with specialist product knowledge available to customers throughout the store,” Mr Wilesmith said.

“There are also two Car Clinic advice bars which will allow customers to find the best solution to their automotive problems."

Cutting edge technology includes the digital wayfinder, an interactive map displayed on a large screen that allows customers to search for a product, and then provides them with an animated map to guide them to it. 

There are no paper catalogues in this store, instead replaced by digital product selection guides to ensure a faster and more accurate way to locate the right product, Mr Wilesmith said.

In addition to digital engagement in the store there are numerous product feature displays which are aimed at showcasing solutions and providing inspiration for customers on how they can use various products.  The ‘Dream Garage’, a dedicated area of the store set up to show what the perfect home garage could look like, is a perfect example of this. 

“It’s so much more than just an auto store,” Mr Wilesmith said.

“Our customers deserve more and we are changing the way we engage with them.”

Other key features customers can enjoy include 24-hour parcel collection service; an industry-leading ‘60 minute click and collect’ program; new services such as Tesla electric vehicle charging, nitrogen tyre inflation, windscreen chip repair and baby seat fitment demonstrations; a full time service concierge on hand to assist customers with all their queries; occasion-based layout with products grouped by solution or usage

In addition to this there is the Pit Stop, a cafe-style lounge area that allows customers to relax and browse through the online store at six dedicated stations – ideal for those waiting for product to be fitted to their car. This area has a strong local connection, featuring community and social sharing boards and a quirky Penrith number plate.

“Whilst the Supercheap Auto Penrith store has all the attributes of a truly national flagship, we have stayed true to the locality and have ensured there are touches of Penrith to keep our community connection alive, and to recognise our team and customers who have supported our success over 45 years,” Mr Wilesmith said..

Supercheap Auto Penrith, located at the Penrith Homemaker Centre, will open its doors on July 1. Featured at the family-orientated opening will be an appearance from the Mighty Car Mods, Triple M Rock Patrol giveaways, HSV Car Club displays, and exclusive club member offers, Mr Wilesmith said.

www.supercheapauto.com.au

www.superretailgroup.com.au

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